Firewise program aims to keep locals prepared from wildfires

SPOKANE, Wash. — Last year, more than 756 square miles of Washington land were burned by wildfire. As wildfire season is set to make a return, a local group is preparing for the worst-case scenario.

There were 297 wildfires in Spokane County alone in 2021. Luckily, one of Spokane County’s local communities and the Spokane Fire Department have stayed ready to respond. They celebrated their 20th year of preparedness as part of the Firewise program.

River Bluff Ranch has worked with the local fire department to provide information to create a fire-safe community.

“Wildfires are something that you really can’t control. Once it gets started, the preparation is the key to how intense the fire will be, how fast it spreads, whether the structures are in danger, and whether human lives are in danger,” said program developer Chris Heftel.

The program focuses on the conditions of individual homes, like properties exposed to wildfire risks. There are more than 1,800 Firewise program sites in the nation with 128 sites in Washington, and 16 in Spokane County.

“We hand out a brochure about Firewise and we are willing to meet with them too and talk about a fire-resistant plan, and plan when they are ready to landscape,” Firewise chairman Mike Thompson said.

Neighbors of the Firewise program give advice on how to keep your home protected from wildfire, like removing trees and vegetation to create a defensible space. These procedures allow emergency services to respond faster and it often saves many homes.

“I think it’s a great program, something that we are proud of being a part of,” Thompson said.

As wildfire season quickly approaches the Inland Northwest, the Firewise program aims t0 keep the community prepared for months to come.

The program is also planning to do extra cleanup in Spokane County to prevent future flames from spreading.

READ: How to protect your home during wildfire season